Making a spectacle


That’s not coca cola, be advised

Van of Van By The River posted a neatly humorous post on the subject of keeping away from mirrors when wearing glasses (and incidentally on the importance of myopic husbands – I think spouses/long term partners are preferred if lacking in a sense (and maybe sense generally) or two. Personally the longevity of my marriage is, in no small part, due to the Textiliste’s lack of a sense of smell).

Van’s post reminded me of my mother and her failing eyesight. When dad took ill any sort of health care for mum went on hold and, like any much loved jalopy with miles under the hood, if you ignore rattles and splutters they tend to compound whatever the underlying problem is exponentially. By the time you get around to taking them to a mechanic the solutions are fairly drastic.

Mum had a new knee, two deaf aids and cataracts to sort out when she emerged from the despond of losing her husband of 52 years.

The knee operation was major but relatively simple and successful.

The hearing aids useful though they were, were randomly used. She enjoyed driving even as she approached her 80th year and liked the silence as she cruised along. Sadly what was a serene peace to her was a cacophony of clutch and gear cogs being ground into some sort of submission. Mum sold the family motor within three months of dad’s departure and bought a nearly new Peugeot. Eighteen months later it broke down, needing a new clutch. As in much of mum’s life post dad, I had to act as a middleman.

‘I shouldn’t have trusted the French.’

The garage proprietor suggested she shouldn’t ride it so much.

‘I’ve been driving since 1944 I’ll have you know.’

Maybe mum would consider an automatic.

‘I’m not senile, young man’.

A new clutch was fitted and the Archaeologist and I were bombarded with suggestions from her daughters in law that we consider telling her it was time to stop driving. We prevaricated.

Mum went back to her local trips and the car continued to function, or so it seemed. After all mum would tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t she? As she had with the clutch problem.

Would she heck. It transpired the only reason I heard about the first clutch issue was because my Aunt rescued her and mum knew my Aunt would not keep it quiet. I was involved because of my Aunt’s failure to comply with the rules of the Grey Sisterhood.

Rule 1: don’t tell the children.

Rule 2 : there is no rule 2

Did you notice the important word in that last paragraph? ‘First’ clutch issue.

Yes, eighteen months after the first clutch breakdown mum’s car (or kaka as she now thought of it) broke down again. This time she was rescued by a lovely young couple. Mum gave them my phone number and reckoned they might call me and tell me of the breakdown. The relevant part of our conversation went something along these lines. Mum first.

‘I’m really disappointed with that car. Another clutch. It really is rubbish.’

‘But it’s been 18 months, mum. The first one went after 18 months.’

Pause. ‘I had this one changed three months ago.’

Longer pause from me. ‘Three months ago? You never said.’

‘I know you’re busy, darling.’

‘Yes well. Still three months is ridiculous; they should last longer. I’ll call the garage..’

‘No darling, I’m just sounding off. I can…’

‘No mum. You don’t have a lawyer in the family and not allow me to exercise my snotty know-all self. Dad would have said ‘you don’t keep a dog and bark yourself’ wouldn’t he?’

So I call the garage, girding my loins for a fight. My call with garage was something like this.

‘Hello, Mr Johnson. I’m ringing about my mother’s Peugeot. Barbara Le Pard.’

‘Ah yes. Lovely lady your mum. Stubborn but…’

‘Stubborn?’ She was but I wondered how so in a garage context.

‘I’ve told her she needs to move to an automatic. She’s too heavy on the clutch for a manual.’

‘Yes it’s about that. You remember I spoke to you when her clutch went. 18 months ago.’


‘And it’s gone again.’

‘Well I did warn her…’

‘Yes, but she says she’s only had this one 3 months.’

Pause, background tapping at a key board. ‘Two months and 23 days.’

‘Exactly. Isn’t that ridiculous. Clutches should last longer.’

‘Mr Le Pard, Your mother barely takes her foot off it. When a clutch goes and is replaced then it weakens the surrounds. The next clutch will last a shorter time under the same conditions and so on.’

‘But three clutches inside three years and the last one only two months old…’


‘Yes three clutches.’ I’m beginning to wonder if he is a half wit.


‘Yes, she’s had three clutches. You must know that.’

‘Your mother told you she has only had three clutches.’


‘Let me check.’ By now I can hear the smile in his voice. ‘She’s had six clutches…’

‘Six, but…’

‘.. In addition to the three you know about…’

‘er, you mean nine in total…?’

‘… and three gearboxes.’


‘Perhaps you might suggest a test drive for an automatic, Mr Le Pard?’


If her hearing aids were sometime of an optional extra for mum, her eye-sight was critical to her enjoyment of life: reading, the TV and gardening.   Gradually throughout her 70s cataracts began to develop and she was finding seeing difficult (not that she admitted this either – see driving above).

Thus it was welcome when she announced she was to be operated on both eyes. Over a two week period. The doctor’s surgery had an eye clinic where they operate twice weekly so everything was made easy. As I recall she was told to keep the bandage on for three days, put in drops first thing in the morning and last thing at night and then after three days she should see a major improvement.

Now let’s remember she had been very dependent on her veri-focals for years. So after putting in the drops she put her glasses on to help her weak eye. When the first set of bandages came off, she still put on her glasses because her new eye was blurred from the eye drops. She called to say how disappointed she was with the new eye. It was still very poor. I sympathised. I said as she only had to wait a week for a follow up they might have some thoughts about why this was.

What I hadn’t twigged and neither had she, was by putting on her glasses they distorted her new perfect eye, making it seem rubbish. It took two days before she took them off to clean them one mid afternoon and suddenly saw HD TV for the first time.

So excited was she she rang me at work. She only rang me at work in extremis – when Dad was diagnosed with cancer for instance. But this time it was with an almost girlish squeal of delight. I couldn’t have been happier for her.

She was by now 82. That night I called her, expecting continued joy, She had lost that enthusiasm. ‘What’s up mum?’

Pause. ‘How long have I had so many wrinkles?’

The benefit of poor eyesight meant she had not seen any deterioration in her skin. The wonder of new eyesight brought home to her how far Anno Domini had impacted her once smooth features. Sometimes the truth isn’t that great.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in family, humour, miscellany and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Making a spectacle

  1. Oh your mum sounds such a character!! Those wrinkles, eyesight back… and the clutches, had me in stitches, love this Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jools says:

    Rule 1: Don’t tell the children….. yes, this applies in our family too. Keeps my brother and I on our toes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sacha Black says:

    Ive heard some of this story before and it made me smile just as much this time. Would have loved to have met your mum

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love these stories about your mom. What a lady. I hope I’m as feisty when I grow up. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. gordon759 says:

    Thanks for reminding me of mum’s terrifying driving. Even when she was younger and could see all right and change gear it was frighting. I remember going down a narrow lane in north Kent and saying, ‘isn’t this a bit fast?’, ‘Oh no.’ she replied as she took a blind bend at sixty, ‘I am under the speed limit.’

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Allie P. says:

    I promise myself that when I reach the point of a certain age I will be more willing to at least consider the well-meaning suggestions of my offspring, however deep down I know I will be just as difficult. Stubborn is one of my most redeeming qualities.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jan says:

    I never wear my glasses when I look in the mirror! Especially in the morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      A wise move. My father went on a business course circa 1975 where one of the tricks was to stare into the mirror first thing and chant ‘ I will be beautiful today’. He never took it seriously for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ritu says:

    Bless your mum!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love your mom, we would have understood each other. Thanks for the mention, Geoff. Love it when a post gets the conversation started. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Geoff… Thank you for this. I think I know why I don’t have “as many wrinkles” as someone my age should! That and the fact that the fat puffs them out! Mega hugs! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a gal! I’m glad you didn’t start in with a phone rant at the garage immediately, that would have been embarrassing! I have already capitulated to listening to my children as it appears they are much brighter than I am – except on matters pertaining to driving – there I keep my autonomy and my automatic 🙂 I tell a story about a fridge that thought it was a freezer and me ……. which kind of marks the spot when I started listening to my kids……….

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Anabel Marsh says:

    I was howling at the clutches – I used to think my mother-in-law was bad with them but she was a total amateur compared to your mother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It was awful but the worst thing was going back to mum with the knowledge I had found her out. As I recall she just had a sherry and shrugged, like a long term burglar eventually nabbed by the police.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Ali Isaac says:

    What a character! She really had all those clutches? Really? ??

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Lovely post, Geoff

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Smashing post, Geoff. These are the kind of things a writer writing a comedy show for the BBC would love.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. rogershipp says:

    “Dad would have said ‘you don’t keep a dog and bark yourself’ ” Loved the saying!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Helen Jones says:

    This is a lovely post, Geoff – lots of love in it, and a few laughs too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.